The Importance of Updating Keyword Research

Keeping Your Keyword Research Up to Date

Keyword research is often the cornerstone of an on-page optimization campaign, and at UpBuild, it’s one of the first things we do for a new client. We make lots of choices based on that research, but we also realize our research isn’t (and shouldn’t be)+ set in stone; it’s a living and breathing document that needs to be updated and reevaluated over time.

Let’s look at some reasons why your keyword research should be updated regularly.

Ever-Changing Industries and Interests

Like most things in this world, industries and vertical markets do not stand still — they evolve. As industries grow and change, technologies, processes, and practices that were once viable for the industry might become outdated. On the flip side, new technologies, procedures, and practices are emerging all the time.

The problem might seem obvious at this point, but if you did your keyword research three years ago and never updated it, how many keywords have emerged that you are missing out on? How many keywords and topics are you still focusing on that are no longer relevant?

For example, assume we are running a transportation-themed blog. The blog talks about various types of transportation like taxis, limos, and helicopters — we cover it all!

There’s just one problem: we have not updated our keyword research in a few years. We are using the same keyword research we did in 2010. It is now almost 2019, and because we never updated our research, we never realized how many people were searching for information on “ridesharing.” How much could it have changed? A lot, apparently — take a look at the Google Trends data for “ridesharing” below.

keyword volume for carpooling

We did our research in 2010 when almost no one was searching for this phrase, but we can see that over the past nine years its popularity has exploded. We have potentially missed out on traffic for nearly ten years — all because we were working with outdated data.

On the flip side, we have been writing about “carpooling” for years, when interest in that topic has been declining. This trend does not mean we should not keep writing about “carpooling” — plenty of people are still searching for the term — but we might consider focusing on that topic less as interest drops.

keyword volume for carpooling

Find New Content Ideas

Most websites have a blog of some kind, and the writers of those blogs are continually looking for new relevant topics to cover. Regularly reviewing and revising your keyword research can help surface new topics to write about in your blog. You might even find enough interest that a new product offering can be created.

Keyword research is an excellent place to discover new content opportunities. You can see where you have gaps in your content, or maybe you can re-prioritize topics based on new interest. Regularly-updated keyword research helps you keep a finger on the pulse of your industry.

Industry Tool Updates

As industries change and evolve, so do the keyword research tools we rely on. Hopefully, your keyword tool of choice updates its database of keywords and estimated traffic volumes as often as possible, so that you’re working with the best possible information (of course, it doesn’t matter if your tools are updated if you’re not going back through your research and updating the data and your targeting accordingly).

How big could these database updates be? Well, look at this update that SEMrush put out earlier this year with 2.1 billion updated keywords. Over two billion opportunities to update our research!

Not only do our favorite tools update their database volumes, but they also offer new tools that let us explore keywords and the web differently. We can only do so much with raw traffic estimate numbers; it can be beneficial to have some of that data put into context for you, like Moz’s Organic CTR% metric. How many organic results does this query generate? How difficult will it be to rank organic because of this? These are just some of the questions we can now get better answers to, thanks to just one of many research tools that have popped up over the years to give us additional data about our keywords beyond volume numbers.  We now have multiple additional data points to consider when revising a keyword optimization strategy.

Now that we have a few reasons why we should be updating our research regularly, let’s look at a few tips on getting that done.

How to Update Your Keyword Research

On the surface, updating keyword research might appear straightforward, right? You just run your current keywords through the Google Keyword Tool again. Done and done. Right? Wrong!

While that method is better than nothing, there is a lot more you could be doing. Here is how I like to update my client’s keyword research regularly.

Schedule It!

I have recently become a big fan of scheduling tasks (thanks Mike for introducing me to Todoist!), especially recurring items like taking out the trash or watering the plants. But I also like to schedule work-related recurring tasks, in case I get focused on a project and could use a reminder to handle those tasks.

One of the first things I do when I take on a new client is set up a recurring task to update their keyword research every three or four months.

updating keyword research on a schedule

This allows me to have a fixed time to focus on updating this client’s keyword research. It will be much harder for me to go months without updating their data if I have a tool reminding me to do it.

I recommend doing something similar, whether it is with your calendar app of choice or through something else that lets you schedule recurring reminders. Your mind is already so full of data, dates, events, things to do, so why not let technology take some of that remembering off of your plate?

Real-Time Updates

Now that I’ve scheduled my recurring keyword updates, I don’t just sit on my hands and turn a blind eye to an ever-changing industry or search landscape for my clients in between those update times. I am continually updating keyword research as I learn more.

So, what does that mean in the scope of my day-to-day work? It means that as I am doing other work for a client, I am also keeping an eye out for new keywords to explore. I find these keywords on competitors’ sites, industry blog posts, newspapers, Reddit, forums, and anywhere else I’m researching for my client.

I want to have an eye on what people are talking about in my client’s industry, where they are having those discussions, and what language is being used.

Don’t get discouraged by this seemingly never-ending task. Real-time keyword updates are straightforward to do. I usually have my client’s keyword research document open somewhere in a browser or on my desktop, so whenever I find a new phrase I want to explore, I add it to my research document. I might not do the actual research right then, but at least I can keep the keywords I want to research in one place and always be reminded that they are there and need some type of action taken.

Other times, if I find a keyword and I have the time, I will do the keyword research right then and there. I will run it through Google’s keyword tool, Moz’s keyword tool, SEMRush, Google Trends, take a look at the SERP landscape for that phrase, etc. Don’t worry; it does not take that long — especially if you have plugins to make the data easily accessible.

I might not do anything with that keyword at that time if the updated keyword information does not warrant it, but at least I have that keyword in my database to reference later. Maybe a client will ask me, “why are we not targeting X” and I can refer back to my research and let them know the situation regarding our decision.

Bonus: Automation

One of the more natural ways to avoid forgetting to do things is to let your computer do the work for you using automation. Keyword research is no different.

Many keyword tools out there have a public API; you could, with some research, set up your keyword research to automatically update volumes on a schedule you set. So, what would this look like? The most straightforward implementation I can think of is to use Google Sheets, Google App Scripts, and a service like SEMRush to build a little keyword research system. You would use Google Scripts to query, or request data, from SEMRush’s API, then populate your Google Sheet with this data.

keyword ranking tracking sheet
A very simple example of a Google Sheet that could be rigged to query SEMRush automatically.

It will probably require writing some code, but with many of these API services offering support and sites like StackOverflow, I have confidence everyone reading this can do it.

Be warned that many tools like Google Sheets that can query an API might do so every time you open up a sheet that makes a call to that API. If you have limitations on your API use (like a limited number of API calls per pay period for example), you’ll want to make sure you are not using those credits unnecessarily. One way we’ve gotten around this in the past is not to have the API call update unless manually triggered with a button like in the sheet below. In this example tool that we’ve built, the keyword volumes will not update until we hit the big blue button — saving our API credits.

keyword volume update via google sheets
Here is a mini keyword research tool I’ve built that lets me update keyword volumes quickly with data from and their API.

When Should I Update?

We’ve discussed automating and scheduling keyword research updates, but you’ll still need to develop a schedule for updates. So, how often should you update?

The answer is going to rely heavily on your industry. Work in a fast-paced industry that is continually changing (think consumer technology or video games)? Those industries need frequent updating of their keyword research to account for new products, developments, acronyms, companies, etc. On the flip side, if you’re working in an industry like plumbing, things might move slower, so your research can sit for a bit longer without updates.

To be safe, if you work in a generally active industry, I would recommend returning to your research once every three to four months. This gives your industry enough time to change and lets you revisit your strategy three to four times a year.

Re-evaluating the Data

When it does come time to revisit our keyword research, whether that is a scheduled review or more of an ad-hoc review, we are mainly looking for changes in search volume, drops in Google Trends, or significant search results landscape changes related to our keywords. Maybe a keyword’s volume has dropped or risen significantly, so we want to make any targeting adjustments based on that update. Or perhaps the search results landscape has changed wildly because of changes Google is continuously making and our page doesn’t match the kinds of pages Google thinks should be ranking here. This gives us another chance to review those pages and decide whether our current strategy is still viable given the current landscape.

Keep in mind that just because a keyword’s volume has changed significantly, you shouldn’t rush to change your targeting strategy based on this one data point. Consider how well each keyword you are considering making a change to ranks and converts. If you are ranking well for a phrase that converts, don’t rush to abandon the keyword just because you have the chance to go after a phrase with a larger volume. You might never rank for it, or it might not convert nearly as well.

Running That Back

Now that you know why you should be refreshing your keyword research often, go schedule a time to do it and get a workflow set up. The easier you make it to do, the more likely you are to stay up-to-date on your research.

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